On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as part of its plan to conquer Southeast Asian territories; the raid, which claimed some 2,400 American lives, prompted the United States to declare war against Japan the next day.
On this date:
In 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1796, electors chose John Adams to be the second president of the United States.
In 1808, electors chose James Madison to be the fourth president of the United States.
In 1842, the New York Philharmonic performed its first concert.
In 1909, in his State of the Union address, President William Howard Taft defended the decision to base U.S. naval operations in the Pacific at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, instead of in the Philippines.
In 1911, China abolished the requirement that men wear their hair in a queue, or ponytail.
In 1946, fire broke out at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta; the blaze killed 119 people, including hotel founder W. Frank Winecoff.
In 1972, America's last moon mission to date was launched as Apollo 17 blasted off from Cape Canaveral. Imelda Marcos, wife of Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos, was seriously wounded by an assailant who was then shot dead by her bodyguards.
In 1982, convicted murderer Charlie Brooks Jr. became the first U.S. prisoner to be executed by injection, at a prison in Huntsville, Texas.
In 1987, 43 people were killed after a gunman aboard a Pacific Southwest Airlines jetliner in California apparently opened fire on a fellow passenger, the pilots and himself, causing the plane to crash. Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev set foot on American soil for the first time, arriving for a Washington summit with President Ronald Reagan.
In 1988, a major earthquake in the Soviet Union devastated northern Armenia; official estimates put the death toll at 25,000.
In 1993, gunman Colin Ferguson opened fire on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train, killing six people and wounding 19. (Ferguson was later sentenced to a minimum of 200 years in prison.)
Ten years ago: Allies of President Vladimir Putin won a sweeping victory in Russia's parliamentary elections. Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth of Britain and its former colonies, which had suspended it for alleged abuses of civil liberties.
Five years ago: President-elect Barack Obama introduced retired Gen. Eric Shinseki as his choice to head the Veterans Affairs Department. Actress-singer Barbra Streisand, actor Morgan Freeman, country singer George Jones, dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp and musicians Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who received Kennedy Center Honors.
One year ago: The Supreme Court agreed to consider California's ban on same-sex marriage and a separate dispute about federal benefits for legally-married gay couples. A hospital nurse in London was found dead in an apparent suicide; days earlier, the nurse had been a victim of a prank telephone call from Australian radio disc jockeys impersonating Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.
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